A Manitoba man guilty of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman in the residences of the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) was finally sentenced to 15 months in detention on Monday. However, he left the Montreal courthouse a free man. The conclusion of a Kafkaesque legal saga.

Haroun Cheikh Sidiya attacked a very vulnerable victim one night in September 2018. The 34-year-old Winnipeg resident posed as a Good Samaritan in the UQAM residences on Saint-Urbain Street to s attack a student who was looking for her room.

The attacker kindly offered to take her home. Instead, he sexually assaulted her in the stairwell. However, the victim had told him “no” several times. The student finally managed to escape and hid with a friend in a bathroom. Meanwhile, Haroun Cheikh Sidiya was combing the floors, obviously looking for the victim.

At the trial, the man said he felt “vulnerable” in front of the complainant. Yet he was a foot taller than her. He even accused her of initiating the sexual touching. An “implausible” version according to the judge.

Nearly two years have passed since the guilty verdict. An extremely long delay. Haroun Cheikh Sidiya was arrested in Winnipeg a few days after the verdict for charges of non-compliance with conditions and sexual contact with a minor. He remained detained for around ten months.

The matter then fell into limbo. Curiously, it proved impossible to transfer him from Winnipeg to Montreal. Manitoba authorities refused to obey the orders of Quebec judges. An unusual situation. Also, it was difficult to see the offender by videoconference, since Manitoba uses another technological platform.

In a surreal hearing in July 2023, Haroun Cheikh Sidiya challenged Quebec’s “jurisdiction” and remained silent during a hearing. The offender even refused to appear on screen. A prison officer spoke for him.

The criminal charges in Manitoba were ultimately dropped. Monday morning, Haroun Cheikh Sidiya was in person in Montreal before Judge Salvatore Mascia. The lawyers then presented a joint suggestion of 15 months of detention. But in fact, he had already served his sentence taking into account the preventive detention served in this case and in that in Manitoba.

Haroun Cheikh Sidiya will, however, be subject to three years’ probation and will be placed on the Sex Offenders Registry for 20 years.